Keynote Speakers

Maira E. Álvarez  and Sylvia Fernández

Responding to the “Border Crisis”: Digital Interventions and Transnational Partnerships

Current and past national discourses about the border have continued to generalize, stereotype and make invisible the complex history along the US-Mexico border. Recent news, present this region as an area of chaos, a  “border crisis.” However, borderlands’ identities have emerged throughout history as a result of the loss of territory, (im)migrations, exile, deterritorialization, deportation, transborder dynamics, divisions, as well as mechanisms of militarization. By creating critical digital humanities projects oriented towards social justice through the use of archival material and public data with digital companions it is possible to delve and reveal other notions of the US-Mexico border. This presentation will discuss how collaborative projects such as Borderlands Archives Cartography (BAC) and Torn Apart / Separados (TA/S) disrupt toxic discourses of this region and its communities by creating two platforms that challenge the “border crisis” by displaying the complexity of the US-Mexico border.

Borderlands Archives Cartography was created to visualize, document, and analyze the junction of various cultures and histories of the border region before and after it became the current division line. BAC uses a digital map to display the U.S.-Mexico borderlands by recording geographic locations of 19th and mid-20th century newspapers. By approximating archival material through the notion of Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga, theory in the flesh, alternative forms of historical documentation emerge, which allow a deeper understanding of border transitions and migration flows found in borderlands’ histories, identities, and cultures. BAC’s transnational newspaper archive incites us to revisit and reinterpret history creating a counter discourse responding to past and current discourses that continue to attack the borderlands and its communities.

Torn Apart / Separados was created as a response to President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy in 2018 and immigration incarceration in the USA in general. TA / S data visualizations illustrate the landscapes, families, and communities driven by the massive web of immigrant detention in the United States, as well as the shadowy economic web that supports ICE infrastructure. The use of public data and mobilize humanities practices allowed other interpretations of family separation such as: how is not just a Mexico-US border issue, but a national one since detention centers are found throughout the nation; and how this is a corrupt mechanism where the U.S. government profits from vulnerable communities by continuously degrading people of color. This initiative becomes a historical digital record that continues to work to profoundly review the “border crisis.”

Maira E. Álvarez is from the Laredo, TX – Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas border. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Houston. Her research is on U.S. Latino Literature with a specialization on the U.S.-Mexico border militarization. Additionally, her research interests lie in the study of Latin American Literature, Latino art, Women’s Studies, Digital Humanities, archival material, and print culture. Currently, Maira is the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR) Director at Houston. She is co-founder of Borderlands Archives Cartography (BAC) www.bacartography.org, part of the #TornApart / #Separados team, and member of the forthcoming team-based United Fronteras.

Sylvia Fernández Quintanilla is a border native from El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston. Currently, she works as a Teaching Assistant with the Spanish as a Heritage Language Program. Her research is on US Latino/a Literature with a focus on US-Mexico Border, Transnational and Intersectional Feminism, Hispanic Archives, Digital Humanities and Decolonial and Postcolonial Theory. Among her DH collaborations, she cofounded Borderlands Archives Cartography (BAC), is part of the core team of Torn Apart / Separados, and currently she is a member and the coordinator of a forthcoming team-based initiative titled, United Fronteras. Other projects she participates with is in the making of a US Latino/a Digital Humanities Center, as well as various project with Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program.


Victor Temprano and Samantha Martin-Ferris

Part I: Voices from Native Land

Started in 2015 as a passion project, the Indigenous land mapping site Native-Land.ca has since been viewed millions of times and is used by teachers nationwide. The project impacts Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in diverse ways, and has sparked big conversations. In this talk, user comments will provide an avenue through which the positives and negatives of Native Land’s user-focused, non-academic approach can be broadly examined. Though influenced by decolonial theory, the project is an amateur one, and a discussion of its particular impacts and challenges will prove useful to many working in the digital humanities.

Part II: Challenges of Incorporating Land and Ecological Knowledge Into Digital Media

In this presentation, Martin-Ferris will discuss the challenges and knowledge gained through incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and land as pedagogy into Native-Land’s education guide. In this presentation she will draw on the challenges of incorporating stories of the land through an Indigenous lens into educational media tools as well as talk about key Indigenous authors papers to illustrate these points. Finally, she will talk about the importance of utilizing this type of pedagogy through technology and the importance of decolonization through technology.

Victor Temprano is a settler who lives in Vancouver, Canada, on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish peoples. He works as a web developer and owns a small startup in Vancouver, BC. He began Native-Land.ca in 2015 after attending protests regarding pipeline construction in British Columbia. Victor holds a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies from McGill University.

Samantha Martin-Ferris is a Gitxaan researcher from the house of Delgamuukw. She comes from Hazelton BC, situated amongst the Skeena River and holds a Bachelors degree from the University of British Columbia in First Nations and Indigenous studies. While her background is primarily in statistics and policy she is always looking at new ways of looking through Indigenous lenses through technology and decolonial practices.